The Palestinians’ campaign to get official United Nations approval of their bid for statehood status is proceeding on multiple fronts. Their application for full UN member state status, submitted with great fanfare to the Security Council on September 23rd, is making its way through the Security Council Committee on Admission of New Members, which consists of representatives appointed from each of the fifteen Security Council members. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are also pursuing membership in the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Palestinians’ UNESCO bid is on the faster track. It cleared a major hurdle by receiving the approval of forty out of the fifty-eight countries on UNESCO’s executive board to move forward with a vote by UNESCO’s entire 193 state membership later this month on whether to accept Palestinian membership in UNESCO. The United States, Germany, Romania and Latvia voted against. Fourteen members of the executive board, including Spain and France, abstained.
Elias Sanbar, Palestinian UNESCO observer representative applauded the executive committee’s decision:
“It’s the beginning of a new time. A time when Palestine, having had its name and its rights recognised and returned, will finally be able to exercise fully, responsibly, independently, freely and as a sovereign state, its activities in every field.”
The UNESCO executive committee decided to move ahead on a Palestinian UNESCO membership vote while the issue of full state membership in the entire United Nations organization was still before the United Nations Security Council. That should come as no surprise. The UNESCO executive committee is presently headed by Russia. While the United States and some other true functioning democracies are members of the executive committee, they are surrounded by the likes of Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, China, Cuba, and Venezuela.
The Palestinians know they have friends at UNESCO. Its executive board has been complicit in the Palestinians’ drive to deny international recognition of the Jewish peoples’ unique religious and historic connection to holy sites such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. With a stroke of the pen, UNESCO designated the Jewish holy site of Rachel’s Tomb as primarily a mosque. UNESCO also erased from the official record the remarks by Israeli representative Nimrod Barkan criticizing UNESCO’s decision. His remarks were deemed “too aggressive.” In the United Nations, telling the truth is considered too aggressive.
Allowing the Palestinian entity to become a full member of UNESCO would give them more standing to pressure the UN agency, which is supposedly devoted to culture, science and education, into erasing recognition of Jewish history and culture in extensive areas of the Holy Land. The Palestinians would do so by using UNESCO as their propaganda instrument to interfere with Israel’s legitimate archeological activities and to falsely re-brand Jewish historical sites as Muslim sites.
Thus, the moment that UNESCO votes the Palestinians into UNESCO, the United States must exit and take its 22 percent funding (about $87 million a year) of UNESCO’s total budget with it. As U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen put it, “the Palestinian leadership is shopping around the U.N. system for recognition. This attempt to rig the process needs to be stopped dead in its tracks. Our contributions are our strongest leverage at the U.N., and should be used to stand up for our interests and allies and stop this dangerous Palestinian scheme.”
However, UNESCO is a sideshow. The Security Council is the center stage for the Palestinians’ campaign to become a full-fledged member state of the United Nations.
The Palestinians need nine members of the Security Council in favor of their application, with none of the five permanent veto holding members opposing it. India, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, China and Lebanon are the Palestinians’ strongest supporters on the Security Council.
Bosnia, Nigeria and Gabon are non-committal so far. A claim by the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki that his delegation has secured eight votes in favor of their application has not been confirmed.
The Obama administration has promised to veto any Security Council resolution recommending UN membership for the Palestinians to the General Assembly. But it is trying to avoid having to exercise its veto power by locking down enough Council votes either against or abstaining on the Palestinian membership application to make the veto unnecessary. The U.S., along with its European allies, are also making a fresh attempt to revive direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. But that is a long shot, especially if the Palestinians think they can get what they want through the UN route.
The Palestinians’ application is presently being considered by the Security Council Committee on Admission of New Members, which met for the first time on October 7th to address a number of procedural issues. There is no formal deadline announced for the Committee to report back to the Security Council body.
The six Palestinian promoters on the Security Council are complaining that the European members, including Germany in particular, are deliberately trying to slow the committee review process down. They accuse the Europeans of raising unnecessary legalistic issues, according to sources cited by Inner City Press who are familiar with what went on during the committee’s secret deliberations. All that needs to be done, they argue, is to look at the short list of criteria for UN membership in Article 4.1 of the UN Charter, which the Palestinians claim they will comply with.
There is just one small problem, if the new membership criteria were taken seriously. The Palestinians do not come anywhere close to meeting them.
Article 4.1 states: “Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”
Palestine first has to be deemed a state under the standards of international law. And it has to accept all the UN Charter obligations. One of those obligations is “to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” (Article 2.4)
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